Everybody loves to celebrate the fast-decision makers — the Lee Fixel’s and Masayoshi Son’s of the world.
An entrepreneur comes into their office and 20 minutes later they walk out with a $100 million check. Are these people real-time data-crunching, mind-reading, behavior-analyzing supercomputers? No — at least not to my knowledge. But they’re definitely prepared.
By the time they make these big decisions, they (and the teams supporting them) have poured hundreds of man-hours into analyzing both the companies and the entrepreneurs themselves so that by the time they have this final face-to-face meeting, they have very few questions left to answer.
As the founder of a growing startup, you are constantly making big decisions. And you’re constantly pressured to make those decisions quickly.
And as it happens, some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made — and have seen other entrepreneurs make — were caused by trying to “think on my feet” and make a decision too quickly, instead of taking the time by myself to process all the data points and potential side effects.
Having run distributed teams over the past 10 years, I have learned through trial-and-error which decisions and processes are better run in real-time (in person or over the phone), and which processes are better run asynchronously (over email with hours or even days separating each response).
Just because your team works under the same roof does not mean that all your processes and interactions should happen in person or over Slack. Some processes and decisions are actually better handled over email or with a time delay simply because some decisions are bigger than others (and therefore require more deep thought).
Everybody loves to romanticize fast decision-making and the people that have the ability to “think on their feet.” But what they don’t see is the amount of deep, uninterrupted thought that went into these decisions before they were made. The best “fast decisions” often start off slow. And the best decision makers — those who seem to make important decisions impossibly quickly — almost always invest more effort into affirming their logic than it might first appear.
Over the past few years, I’ve tried to systematize which types of decisions and processes should be run in real-time and which should be run asynchronously, or with a time delay. Here is my mental framework up to this point.
An interesting side effect of a distributed team is that it forces some processes to be asynchronous simply because strolling by your teammate’s desk is not a possibility. At first, you may think this is a reason why distributed teams are problematic…
One beneficial side effect is that our team works more autonomously, making logical decisions and conclusions for themselves. They are forced to think more deeply and critically for longer periods of time and cannot simply default to asking somebody next to them for help or asking you as the founder to “come look at this.” Instead, they compose a well-thought-out and organized email.
In addition to saving the leadership team time by not constantly needing to review small tasks, asynchronous processes encourage team members to make logically informed decisions by themselves and to, in turn, trust their own judgement. And when you get a tipping point of employees who you can trust to run autonomously, that’s when the company truly starts to evolve.
These happen when:
In general, all decisions, solutions, and plans which are in their final stages and need only a final confirmation or review should be conducted in real-time. But this is only because all participants by this point would have already done a lot of deep thinking about their share of the process and will be prepared to share their logic, opinions, or answers.
As a founder, especially in an early stage company, you will always gravitate toward trying to do as much as possible in real-time and face-to-face. When your team is literally sitting right next to you, it’s pretty hard not to. In the moment, having live (and lively) discussions always feels very productive and makes you feel like you are “moving quickly” and “doing things.”
So, next time you are looking to call a “brainstorming” meeting, ask yourself if now is the right time for that, or if there is still more deep work and deep thought to be done before you can actually make an informed decision about something.
As a founder of a fast growing company, the last thing you probably want to hear is “slow down.” But when it comes to making big decisions, that’s exactly what you should do.
Growing up, my parents constantly told me to “sleep on it” (which is very frustrating if you are as impatient as I am). But as it turns out, that advice was spot on.
Originally published at medium.com